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Evacuees from Japan cruise ship arrive in Hong Kong

Hong Kong: More than 100 Hong Kong citizens stranded on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan, arrived in the city onboard a chartered plane on Thursday.

They were immediately placed into 14 days of quarantine at a government facility, reports Efe news.

The 106 Hong Kong evacuees were among some 500 passengers allowed to disembark from the coronavirus-stricken cruise liner on Wednesday after they tested negative for the novel disease COVID-19.

The virus has infected more than 620 out of 3,711 passengers and crew members on board, making the Diamond Princess the center of the biggest outbreak of the virus outside mainland China.

After landing in Hong Kong at 8.30 a.m., the returnees, mostly middle-aged or elderly, were sent to a newly built public housing estate in the New Territories for the new 14-day quarantine period.

Secretary for Security John Lee told reporters on Thursday morning that there were a total of 364 people from Hong Kong onboard, and 55 of them had been infected and would remain in Japan for treatment.

In addition, 33 who had been in close contact with the infected also had to stay on to be quarantined.

A second chartered flight would fly more Hong Kong evacuees back to the city on Thursday afternoon, the official said.

Hundreds of passengers began disembarking the ship on Wednesday at the end of the quarantine period set by Japanese authorities, and the rest were expected to do so between Thursday and Friday.

Meanwhile, two Japanese passengers on Thursday became the first from the ship to have died, Japan’s state broadcaster NHK reported.

They had underlying health issues and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 to hospitals after testing positive.

The Diamond Princess lockdown began after an 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong who boarded the ship for a five-day cruise on January 20 tested positive for the coronavirus on February 1, six days after leaving the ship.

This prompted the Japanese authorities to quarantine the vessel in the Yokohama port.